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Trailblazing Women: reading a speech and drama; Sojourner Truth 7


Read this excerpt from a drama, then answer the practice question.

The Northampton Camp Meeting

Cast of Characters

Sojourner Truth: abolitionist, women’s rights campaigner, and preacher
Olive Gilbert: Sojourner’s friend
Mob: a group of young, white men terrorizing a gathering of Christians

Scene One

(1848. In SOJOURNER’s house in Northampton, Massachusetts, SOJOURNER is telling her life story to her friend OLIVE, who is taking notes.)
Olive: Will you tell me about the day of the Northampton camp meeting?
Sojourner: That was quite the day.
Olive: You were truly brave, as I recall.
Sojourner: I was quaking with fear! Dozens of wild young men hooting and yelling, making the most frightful noises, and threatening to set fire to the whole place. And they had no motive but entertaining themselves by annoying and injuring the feelings of others. At first, I had to hide behind a trunk in the back of a tent. I said to myself, “I am the only Black person here, and on me, probably, their wicked mischief will fall first, and perhaps fatally.”
Olive: Why on earth did you come out of there at all?
Sojourner: Those men were shouting and stomping so loud and so hard, the tent itself began to shake. And then I thought, “Shall I run away and hide from the devil? Me, a servant of the living God? Have I not faith enough to go out and quell that mob?” It is written in the Bible that "One shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight"? I know there are not a thousand here; and I know I am a servant of the living God. I'll go to the rescue, and the Lord shall go with and protect me.” Oh, I felt as if I had three hearts! And that they were so large, my body could hardly hold them.

Scene Two

(Flashback to 1844. A Christian camp meeting in a field outside of Northampton, Massachusetts. Night, with a full moon. A MOB OF YOUNG WHITE MEN is rioting, while people run and hide. SOJOURNER steps out of a tent, afraid but calm and resolute, and takes a moment to look around.)
(Then, she walks over to a wagon, and climbs up on top of it. As the rioting continues, SOJOURNER starts to sing with full strength and passion.)
Sojourner: (singing) It was early in the morning—it was early in the morning . . .
(As she sings, members of the MOB notice and run towards her, gathering around the wagon to listen. At first, a few shout and heckle, but they’re told to be quiet by the others.)
Sojourner: (continues singing) . . . Just at the break of day
When he rose—when he rose—when he rose,
And went to heaven on a cloud.
(switches to speaking) I see many young men before me, whose hearts must be open to good impressions. But why do you come about me with clubs and sticks? I am not doing harm to anyone.
Young man 1: We aren’t going to hurt you, old woman.
Young man 2: We came to hear you sing!
(Cheers, shouts of agreement.)
Young man 3: Sing to us!
Young man 4: Talk to us!
Young man 5: Give us a prayer!
(More cheers.)
Sojourner: You’re all standing and smoking so close to me, I can’t sing or talk a word more.
Young man 1: (shouts to MOB) Everybody stand back! Give the old woman space!
Young man 3: We don’t want to stand back—we want another song.
(A few shouts of agreement.)
Young man 2: (shouts to the rest of the MOB) Didn’t you hear? The preacher-woman wants space!
(YOUNG MEN 1 & 2 raise their clubs to the men who don’t want to move. Others shout “stand back!” and raise their weapons too. The crowd starts to move back and make more space around the wagon.)
Young man 1: Well, how’s that?
Sojourner: Better, thank you.
Young man 1: If any man offers you any indignity, I swear I’ll knock him down. And now we’d beg of you to sing and preach to us some more.
Sojourner: Well, this is quite the congregation. The gospel of Matthew tells that the Son of Man shall sit on his throne in glory, and he shall separate the sheep from the goats. While the other preachers get the sheep, I see I’ve gotten myself a whole field’s worth of goats.
(Laughter from MOB.)
Sojourner: A field of raggedy goats!
(More laughter.)
Young man 2: Tell us about your life!
Sojourner: My life? Well, that’s a long tale. A tale of strange happenings, severe hardships, and singular adventures. But if that’s what you want to hear, then I’ll tell you ...

Practice question

Pick the TWO details that best show how Sojourner Truth had to fight for men to listen to her respectfully.
Choose 2 answers: